The Ontario Liberals released their fully costed election platform on Monday with a suite of measures intended to make housing in the province more affordable.
Their main goal is to get 1.5 million homes built over the next 10 years.
Canada has the fewest housing units per person in the G7, Scotiabank said in a 2021 study, and two-thirds of the national shortage is in Ontario. The gap between supply and demand pushes up the price of homes on the market.
Ontario needs 1.5 million homes built in the next 10 years to fill the shortage, a task force appointed by Premier Doug Ford's Progressive Conservative (PC) government said in a February report. To reach that goal, Ontario needs to "double" its construction rate, the group said.
Ontario's NDP also shared its plan to build 1.5 million homes in the next decade, but hasn't said what it will cost. Leader Andrea Horwath says full costing is coming soon.
The PC government's budget — which wasn't passed by the legislature — projected that the construction of just over half the homes needed to reach 1.5 million by 2032 will begin in the next four years.
But Ford cast his budget's projections aside on Friday, saying the PCs were "going to hit our targets of 150,000 homes a year" by eliminating obstacles to development.
The promises in the Liberal platform to make housing and rents affordable would cost an estimated $3.8 billion over the next four years. In addition to related measures, including a tax on vacant homes, the Liberals say they'd take in $3.2 billion in revenue.
Of the 1.5 million homes they promise to see built over the next decade, their platform says 138,000 will be "deeply affordable," including: 78,000 social and community units, 38,000 "supportive" housing units, and 22,000 reserved for Indigenous people. The party says it will also finance repairs of "tens of thousands" of affordable homes.
It would also create a new "Ontario Home Building Corporation" to work under "strict oversight" with local communities, not-for-profits, and developers to build and maintain affordable homes. The new group would also develop "surplus" government-owned land. Any homes built and sold by the corporation would be reserved for first-time homebuyers, and the proceeds would be used to create more affordable homes.
The Liberals want to give municipalities $300 million over five years to speed up housing approvals. They also promise to work "in close collaboration" with municipalities to loosen zoning rules so that three-unit, two-storey homes can be easily built throughout Ontario. The party would also incentivize municipalities with an average of $285 million per year over the next four years to meet or exceed their housing-construction targets.
The Liberals would also create new taxes to try to fight rising property prices, including a "Home Vacancy Tax," and a "use it or lose it" tax on developers. The former would force the owner of an urban residential unit who doesn't have tenants to pay the government a fee worth five per cent of the unit's value if the owner isn't Canadian, and two per cent if he or she is. The second tax would target developers with building permits that are stalling projects on serviced land.
The party promises to "work with" the federal government to ban new "non-resident ownership in Ontario's housing market for at least the next four years," and introduce legislation to fight money laundering in the housing market. It would also create a public homeownership registry, with the intention of uncovering condo-flippers and ensuring they're paying tax.
The party says it would also "reform" blind bidding on homes, and require residential-real-estate agents to publicly disclose expected commission rates.
As well, the Liberals say they'll: encourage the construction of multiplexes and mid-rise housing near rapid-transit stations; work with municipalities to convert underused commercial spaces into residential units; allow municipalities to implement "street voting," which "lets single streets of residents, both renters and owners, vote to increase minimum housing allowances"; and budget $100 million over 10 years for more co-op housing.
As Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca has already promised, his party would eliminate Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZOs), which the Ford government has used widely and controversially to bypass local planning policies and provincial laws in order to speed up development projects. The Liberal platform promises to "replace them with a new rules-based measure limited to critical provincial projects only," including affordable housing.
The Liberals also intend to return power to renters. Most significant, they would re-impose rent control on all rental units in Ontario. The Ford government removed caps on rent increases for all units built after late 2018.
Although the Liberal platform is mainly about making housing more affordable, it also promises to: expand home care; spend $1 billion to clear Ontario's surgical backlog; and renegotiate the child-care agreement with Ottawa to get a better deal. It also provides the cost of all the promises the party has made to date.
By sticking to the platform's promises, the Liberals would be in position to balance the provincial budget by 2026-27, Del Duca said, one year earlier than when the PCs said they'd do it.